House passes measure to give federal contractors backpay for shutdown

House passes measure to give federal contractors backpay for shutdown
© Greg Nash

The House on Tuesday passed a measure providing back pay to low-wage federal contractors that were barred from working during the 35-day government shutdown that began in late December.

“I’m thrilled the House has passed legislation that would finally provide federal contract workers the back pay," said Rep. Ayanna Pressely (D-Mass.), who, along with District Del. Eleanor Holmes NortonEleanor Holmes NortonMajority of Americans opposes DC statehood: poll DC statehood hearing rescheduled to make room for Mueller testimony DC mayor: Trump's July 4 celebration 'depleted' security fund MORE, sponsored the proposal that ended up passing as part of a large appropriations bill.

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"Our government relies on these hardworking men and women to keep our government buildings running, and we have a moral obligation to make them whole for the pay they lost during the government shut down,” she added.

While federal employees have always been compensated for unpaid work or furloughed time that results from a shutdown, contractors have previously not been included. 

Contractors have increasingly filled the government's need for security guards, food workers, and cleaners, and many people in those positions simply lost shifts for the 5-week span of the shutdown.

"Contracted janitors and security officers, as well as their families will continue to relive the trauma on a daily basis until they are compensated for 35 days of income," said Hector Figueroa, President of 32BJ SEIU, which represents over 600 of the furloughed contractors. 

"Their shaky finances are already at a breaking point and cannot withstand yet another shutdown looming around the corner," he said.

Congress has been wary of providing blanket back pay for all contractors given that many government contractors are enormously profitable companies, and it would be difficult to ensure that the funds were paid out to the workers.

It remains unclear whether the Senate will consider a version of the bill in its appropriations process, which has lagged behind the House.